- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

U.S. aircraft and warships used precision bombing and missile strikes in yesterday's opening round of allied operations against terrorist bases and other targets in Afghanistan with the aim of defeating the al Qaeda network and its supporters in the ruling Taliban militia.
Defense officials said the attacks were carried out by about 15 long-range bombers, including Air Force B-2, B-1 and B-52 bombers based in the United States and in areas near Afghanistan.
A group of about 25 U.S. Navy strike aircraft, F-14 and F-18 fighters from the aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise, took part in the bombing raids, and four U.S. guided-missile warships and two submarines one British, one American fired a total of 50 cruise missiles.
The first strikes began at 12:30 p.m. EDT yesterday, or 9 p.m. in Afghanistan.
Defense officials said the attacks were targeted on Taliban military and defense-related facilities in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazer-e-Sharif.
A senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said the targets included early-warning radar, airfields and aircraft, some terrorist training camps, fixed surface-to-air missile sites and a concentration of troops and tanks near Mazer-e-Sharif
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the goal of the raids, which also included a British surface ship, was to "create conditions for sustained anti-terrorist and humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan."
"That requires that, among other things, we first remove the threat from air defenses and from Taliban aircraft," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon as the attacks were under way.
"We also seek to raise the cost of doing business for foreign terrorists who have chosen Afghanistan from which to organize their activities and for the oppressive Taliban regime that continues to tolerate terrorist presence in those portions of Afghanistan which they control."
The attacks come less than a month after terrorists struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon with hijacked commercial airliners, killing more than 5,000 people.
Crews returning from their missions yesterday reported little or no resistance over Afghanistan.
"It all came together like a finely oiled machine," one B-52 pilot told Agence France-Presse after his mission yesterday.
"We face much more challenging sorties in our routine training," a B-1B bombardier said in a post-attack conference call with reporters, according to the Associated Press.
"I felt proud. It's like being a football player on Super Bowl day," the bombardier said.
The allied goal is to attack the Taliban military forces until they are unable to protect terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.
The campaign also seeks to weaken the Taliban so that the Northern Alliance forces, now located about 20 to 40 miles north of Kabul, can take power.
The sources said the U.S. government has told the alliance to hold its positions until the U.S. military strikes have weakened the Taliban military sufficiently.
Defense officials said the military operations would continue for several days and humanitarian air drops were to begin immediately to help Afghan refugees, many of whom are spread out in makeshift camps near Afghanistan's borders.
The initial attacks took place against several terrorist training bases scattered throughout Afghanistan, Taliban-controlled surface-to-air missile sites, several early-warning radars, and air bases where the Taliban operates a small number of MiG-21 fighters.
The Taliban is known to operate a small number of SA-2 missile batteries as well as three types of anti-aircraft artillery.
The Taliban also is believed to have shoulder-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles and some U.S. Stingers, which were supplied to Afghan rebels for use against Soviet forces in the 1980s.
"We need the freedom to operate on the ground and in the air," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And the targets selected, if successfully destroyed, should permit an increasing degree of freedom over time."
Overall, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "Our objective is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support them. The world stands united in this effort."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the strikes are "not about a religion or an individual terrorist or a country."
"Our partners in this effort represent nations and peoples of all cultures, all religions and all races," he said. "We share the belief that terrorism is a cancer on the human condition, and we intend to oppose it wherever it is."
The initial attacks are intended to eliminate the threat to U.S. aircraft and part of the Pentagon's strategy of creating "air dominance" controlling the skies over a location as part of various military attacks.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the attacks included both overt and covert operations, suggesting that special- operations commandos are working on the ground inside Afghanistan.
Commandos are expected to play a major role in the war on terrorism, conducting intelligence and ground-attack missions against terrorists and their infrastructure.
"I want to remind you that while today's operations are visible, many other operations may not be so visible," Gen. Myers said.
"But visible or not, our friends and enemies should understand that all instruments of our national power, as well as those of our friends and allies around the world, are being brought to bear on this global menace."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the missile and bombing raids did not try to hit bin Laden himself. U.S. officials say his al Qaeda network masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This is not about a single individual," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "It's about an entire terrorist network and multiple terrorist networks across the globe."
For the first time, the Pentagon stated that it would work with the opposition Northern Alliance, which controls parts of northeastern Afghanistan.
Mr. Rumsfeld said there are "a number of elements on the ground" in Afghanistan that oppose the Taliban, including the Northern Alliance, tribes in the south and elements within the Taliban itself.
These elements "do not favor [Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed] Omar and do not favor the al Qaeda and would wish they were no longer in the country.
"Certainly our interest is to strengthen those forces that are opposed to al Qaeda and opposed to the Taliban leadership that is so intimately connected to them, and to strengthen all of those forces so that they will have better opportunities to prevail and to deal with what obviously is a regime that is enormously harmful to the Afghan people and poses threats to people all across the globe" including Americans, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the attacks were not directed against Afghanistan or the Afghan people. "We support the Afghan people against the al Qaeda, a foreign presence on their land, and against the Taliban regime that supports them."
The humanitarian aid included initial drops of about 37,000 packaged meals and medical supplies.
Gen. Myers said most of the weapons fired were "precision" guided weapons, although non-precision bombs also were used, depending on the types of targets.
"We are using or essentially have at hand all our conventional munitions," Gen. Myers said.
Special-operations forces also dropped propaganda leaflets over Afghanistan explaining the bombing and missile strikes.
Radio broadcasts in local languages also were initiated from aircraft in the region.
A large number of support aircraft also took part, including intelligence, reconnaissance and command-and-control aircraft, and aerial-refueling tankers.
The U.S. missile ships involved in the attacks were the cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the destroyers USS O'Brien, USS John Paul Jones, and USS McFaul. The one British and one U.S. submarine were not identified by name.
The B-1 and B-52 bombers were based at the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and the B-2 stealth bombers flew from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
The B-2s landed after the raids at an undisclosed base in the region, officials said. There were no losses of allied aircraft or casualties, the Pentagon said early in the operation.
Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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